Wednesday 7 September 2011

What is Steampunk: Al Ewing has a few ideas...

It's The Summer of Steampunk here at Abaddon Books and before we embark on our next giveaway, we continue our look at what the Pax Britannia authors think of the genre.

Next up is the mighty Al Ewing, author of Gods of Manhatten and El Sombra. Here are his thoughts on Steampunk:

I know people who love Steampunk above all other genres - I'm not one of them. For me, it's just another kind of alternate universe, and the reason I love alternate universes is that they're experimental playgrounds - ways to interrogate aspects of the universe we live in. If you take the scope wide enough, that's what all fiction is - but let's get back to Steampunk. I'm just going to talk off the top of my head.

For many, Steampunk equals Victoriana. If we look at the Pax Britannia universe, it's incredibly significant that Victoria is still alive in the 'present day', kept alive far beyond her natural span by machinery. She's the mirror of what Steampunk often is - the Victorian era, returned to life through science fiction. All the story potential inherent in the imperialism of the time, in the massive class differences, in the struggles of the disempowered to empower themselves in the face of inherent societal prejudice, in emerging technology on the edge of science. We're back to interrogating the world we're in again. It's an incredibly rich seam, so to speak.

That said - I find the emphasis on Victoria, or Britain, gets a bit stifling, and also Jon has that sewn up and I like having room to work. In Gods Of Manhattan, I was exploring what happens when you let a steampunk world grow and change - I took out the Victoriana and the Verne and replaced them with Americana and pulp-fiction influences, and that worked out nicely.

What I'm doing - particularly with Pax Omega - is taking that further. Looking at what a steampunk universe looks like a hundred and fifty years before Victoria's reign, or a million years after. These are the interesting questions to me - for instance, can a steampunk world survive having Warhol in it? Or Grandmaster Flash? Or Betty Page? I'm not talking about just dressing them up in frock coats and corsets and goggles - what does their effect on the world look like when you transpose it to a steampunk world? What shape is it then?

Now take it forward five hundred years. Look around. Describe it.

Is that still Steampunk? If so, why? If not, why not?


1 comment:

Mark by Chocolate said...

Clackers is steampunk not cyberpunk. To me, the way I think about steampunk is it is not set in the Victorian era but rather present day. And rather than take the path we've taken, the steampunk universe is all about taking the mechanical path and maybe even the biological path rather than the electrical and chemical paths that our universe has taken. So, computers are mechanical and analog, for example. However, mechanical miniaturization is far beyond what we have today.

So, one freezes part of the world of science in the early 1800s, that is the Victorian Era, and the world takes a different development. The industrial revolution never ends. The naturalistic emphasis that they had then, never ends.

Fashion, society, politics all follow from that.